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Email Marketing Trends: What to Expect in 2018

As marketing technology advances, email continues to play a significant role in a savvy marketer’s strategy. But as with everything else in this technology-driven world, email marketing trends are constantly evolving and changing, which means that marketers are required to learn, test, evolve, adapt, and modify their tactics accordingly.

What’s ahead for email marketing? Here are some of the key email marketing trends we think it’s important to keep an eye on in 2018 and beyond.

Technology Driving Change

Technological innovations are, of course, driving developments in email marketing and playing a role in email marketing trends. Technology and automation solutions are increasingly affording improved functionality, better personalization, and more effective targeting at scale. Sophisticated options are becoming accessible even to smaller and newer companies as entry costs for services continue to decrease.

The adoption of marketing automation platforms will become increasingly commonplace, and Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, and chatbots will increasingly be adopted so as to automatically deliver personalized content to email subscribers, often in real time, in response to consumer behavior.

New innovative techniques are now being used to evaluate the impact of creative and design. For instance, eye-tracking, long used as a test tool for websites, can also be used to test emotional responses to email campaigns. By analyzing results from focus groups of real end users, email design can be tweaked to improve actions such as CTA conversions before campaigns begin.

Intelligent Use of Data

Other email marketing trends that are prevalent in 2018 is an intelligent approach in the use of data to predict consumer behavior. Predictive lead scoring models are increasingly applying AI and machine learning techniques, to both external and internal data, producing insights to power the sales process. Automatic segmentation based on consumer characteristics and behavior added to known industry trends, will help control the type of email content sent, along with delivery timing and frequency.

This additional intelligent layer over the marketing automation process will continue to improve and fine-tune the lead nurturing process, helping ensure the delivery of the the right message to the right person at the right time.

Cross-Channel Leverage

A single customer view will continue to develop as a more integrated, cross-channel approach is increasingly adopted. Data from a range of channels will not only help to grow email subscriber lists, but will also better inform segmentation and targeting of email campaigns.

Other email marketing trends include real-time email triggers, already being used in limited form, will see email content being delivered in real time to leverage the consumers’ online reading, social searches, and perhaps even location-based local activity. What better way to stimulate a conversation than to present the consumer with relevant content, and perhaps discounts, when their interest is at its peak?

Content, Context, and Conversations

Delivery of interesting, informative, and entertaining content will, of course, still be basic requirements. Several other factors are also coming into play for email marketers. These include:

Context. Contextual data will become increasingly important for email campaigns, either by way of segmentation within a specific context, or as a direct result of customer data. Examples of the types of context that go toward a fully personalized communication can include:

  • Real-time context such as location or social media status
  • Behavorial context including previous transactions and search history
  • Static personal and demographic data
  • Predictions based on changes in preferences or website events

Conversational. Brands love to have conversations with consumers and the use of messaging has lent a much more casual, conversational tone to communications. Savvy email marketers will build on this factor to help customers to relate to brands, bringing a much more personal touch to email campaigns that encourages the recipient to respond (and of course to buy).

Interactive. The use of innovative interactive kinetic elements will increase as marketers look to give consumers options without leaving the inbox.

Visual. The move toward the use of images, video, and animated GIFs in marketing emails will continue. As more email clients enable the embedding of video within the email itself, this trend is only likely to increase. Marketers should keep in mind the fact that visuals should only be included to support the message, not just as an irrelevant, superfluous element.

Concise. As more and more emails are opened on mobile devices, messages, and particularly subject lines, are going to become shorter. Marketers will need to know which devices their customers are using, ensure their message renders effectively and crucially, that the first few words are powerful enough to grab the reader’s attention.

If you would like to take a deeper dive into the impact of mobile on email marketing take a look at my recent post at the V3B blog: StatReport: Mobile’s Impact on Email Marketing.

Email Design

However contextual, conversational, and concise your message may be, it will have no effect if the email design can’t capture the interest of the reader and encourage them to follow your CTA.

Modular email templates are one solution for those without the in-house skills to code their own email designs. With “drag and drop” available capabilities that allow users to build effective email designs, these customizable templates are likely to become increasingly available as demand from marketers increases.

Other innovative design elements are also likely to be seen. For example writing at Campaign Monitor, Alex Williams of Trendline Interactive predicted the rise of 1-click mobile payments direct from email this year.

If you want a deeper dive into email design, read my post over on the V3 Broadsuite blog: How to Design an Email People Want to Read.

Policies, Rules, and Regulations

There are external factors that will influence the evolution of email marketing that cannot be ignored.

Reputation and deliverability. ISPs have been going way beyond the spam check in recent times, shifting their focus toward how the recipient interacts to judge the reputation of the sender. This is something my team and I watch closely, and a trend that is sure to increase in time. As a result, email marketers need to ensure they have an up-to-date, good quality subscriber list and strive to do everything possible to elicit positive interactions like opens, link clicks, and replies. An overabundance of deletions and spam flags will undoubtedly have a negative impact on email deliverability.

ISPs will allow more emails from IP addresses and domains they trust, so building a good reputation is crucial to deliverability stats. To build that level of trust marketers, need to establish a precedent of stable cadence and speed of deliveries from a dedicated IP address. Inconsistency will not only upset subscribers, it can potentially damage sender reputation with what could well be disastrous consequences for the email marketer.

Regulation awareness. Regulations are constantly under review and being updated, particularly around the areas of data, privacy, and consent. Marketers will need to keep abreast of these, even if they originate in other parts of the world due to the global nature of many digital businesses.

Take for example the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a new European Union regulation that’s due to come into force in May 2018. This legislation is going to have a radical impact on the way consumer data is handled for any company managing data relating to customers, prospects, or employees who are European residents. Yet according to a December 2016 report from PwC almost a quarter (23 percent) of U.S. companies surveyed hadn’t started preparing for GDPR, while just 7 percent said their GDPR preparations were completed.

2018: An Exciting Year for Email

As always, this year is sure to be an innovative, challenging year for marketers and for email marketing in general. Technological developments are continuing to present exciting new opportunities for marketers, while at the same time, developing regulatory frameworks and ever-evolving ISP policies will continue to present new challenges. Marketers have it tougher than ever before. Our jobs require constant learning, continually staying abreast of the latest changes and things that might impact the success of our email marketing programs, and regular testing and modification of our tactics, always searching for new and improved results. Thankfully, that’s the part of my job I love the most, but I definitely understand the challenges this presents for other marketers as well as for our clients.

I believe that email plays a vital role in marketing. In fact, for us email marketing is the literally the foundation upon which our business is built. I wrote about that recently as well if you’d like a deeper dive: Email Marketing—The Cornerstone of Your Lead Generation Program. What about you? Where are you with your email marketing efforts? What are your biggest challenges? What can we help you with or what questions can we answer? I’d love to hear from.

Photo Credit: Best in Australia Flickr via Compfight cc